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A very personal Memorial Day salute

Fallen native sons among honorees
Thursday, May 24, 2007
BY LAWRENCE RAGONESE
Star-Ledger Staff

The two couples hugged beneath the America flag, casting knowing looks at each other.

Despite dozens of political dignitaries and hundreds of onlookers, Philip and Annette Brown and Charlene Cosgrove-Bowie and Arthur Bowie were really alone with their thoughts and feelings. In the grim looks on their faces and tears that rolled down their cheeks, you could sense a pain that could only be observed -- not shared-- by the crowd.

Their sons, Marine Lance Cpl. Christopher B. Cosgrove of Hanover and Marine Lance Cpl. Donald S. Brown of Roxbury, were posthumous guests of honor yesterday at the Morris County freeholders' Memorial Day observance on the lawn of the county courthouse in Morristown.

Both young soldiers, who lost their lives in the war in Iraq, were awarded Morris County Distinguished Service Medals, as were 11 other surviving veterans.

The awards came in a true scene of Americana.

A huge flag flew over Court Street. A sheriff's honor guard offered a formal drill. Roxbury Deputy Mayor Tim Smith sang the national anthem. There was a 21-gun salute. A police pipe and drum corps played "Amazing Grace."

The honorees sat in chairs on a bright green courthouse lawn ringed by American flags and intently listened to speeches honoring their slain sons.

"They never had the opportunity to take for granted the pleasures of playing catch in the backyard with a child, or dancing spontaneously with a spouse when a favorite song is heard, or deciding which fishing hole would yield the best results," said former freeholder and current Morris Plains Mayor Frank Druetzler.

"Instead, their images are frozen in time within the pages of school yearbooks and family albums. Their memories are animated in faraway glances of saddened parents, spouses, siblings, children and friends."

Freeholder Margaret Nordstrom then called up the honored guests one by one, to receive their county medals.

Christopher Andrews of Kinnelon. Matthew Clay Bartlett of Montville. Drew Daddio of Parsippany. Donald Fantasia of Hanover. Jeffrey Greco of Mount Olive. Velma Hodge of Netcong. Eugene Kuhar of Jefferson. Jacquel Miranda of Hopatcong. Scott Stebbins of Madison. Also two Marines who served with Cosgrove: Lance Cpl. Kyle Witty of Montville and Lance Cpl. Remigiusz Wojdala of Denville.

The recipients stood at attention, saluting, when the Cosgroves and Browns were called to receive their sons' medals.

"All of these veterans are deserving of every honor they get," said Philip Brown, who wore a Marine tie. "If it was up to me, they'd have my vote to get all the honors possible ... and to get everything they need to succeed to do their jobs as best they can."

"Everybody who risks their lives, we share this with them all," added Charlene Cosgrove-Bowie, who wore her son's dog tags around her neck.

Christopher Cosgrove was one of 40 members of the 2nd Battalion, 25th Marines Golf Company stationed at Picatinny Arsenal who went together to Iraq. Thirty-nine returned home. The 23-year-old Whippany Park High School graduate died on Oct. 1, 2006, in Anbar Province, just three days shy of leaving Iraq. He was killed at a checkpoint by a suicide bomber.

Donald Brown was killed on Oct. 25, 2006, in Haditha, Iraq. A Roxbury High School graduate, he had followed his brother, Kenneth, a Marine who served three tours in Iraq, to battle. He was just 19 when he died.

Philip Brown closed his eyes and gritted his teeth yesterday as taps were played to honor his son and all slain veterans. He later said the pain of loss remains difficult to bear.

"My dad once told me that after he lost a son, the hurt doesn't ever really go away or get any easier," Brown said after the ceremony. "But over time, he told me, it just gets a bit more bearable. Maybe it will."

Lawrence Ragonese may be reached at lragonese@starledger.com or (973) 539-7910.


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